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The Atonement – a little more to go on. (republished)

Originally published on May 15th 2008

The Resurrected Savior

The Resurrected Savior

I don’t feel as though I completely understand the Atonement. Don’t get me wrong, I get the jist of it – but I feel like I’m missing pieces of it.

I looked up the Atonement under Gospel Topics on lds.org. There is a brief description of the atonement and some additional links for other information. I chose to look at Church Magazine Articles to see if there were some talks out there that might help me understand it in a more plain fashion.

Reading that the Atonement is “the most difficult to understand”[1. James E. Faust -The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope], or “it is impossible for me to put into words the full meaning”[2. Elder M. Russell Ballard - The Atonement and the Value of One Soul] of the Atonement is not exactly what I needed to see. I need it easy!

But I figure I’m going to have to read a lot, if I want to get to a better understanding of it. We can start with the basics of it and what it does for us.

The Bible Dictionary states “Atone describes the setting “at one” of those who have been estranged, and denotes the reconciliation of man to God. Sin is the cause of the estrangement, and therefore the purpose of atonement is to correct or overcome the consequences of sin.”[3. Bible Dictionary - Atonement]

If you look it up through Gospel Topics, it says this “As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for sins, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him or her to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ was the only one capable of carrying out the Atonement for all mankind. Because of His Atonement, all people will be resurrected, and those who obey His gospel will receive the gift of eternal life with God.”[4. Gospel Topic - Atonement of Jesus Christ]

In essence, Jesus is our rescuer, and he stands in our place. He was the only one capable. Because He was born of a mortal mother [could die] and of an imortal Father [overcome death]. [5. Gospel Topic - Atonement of Jesus Christ; Additional Information]

I’m still missing something though and I think it has to do with sin and the effects there of. What I mean is, if we commit sin that removes us from God – the opposite of atone [at one]. As a mortal we can only do so much, repent and obey. To complete the process [what we can't do] Jesus atoned for us, enabling us to return [at one] to God. It’s our choice.

Gordon B. Hinckley explained it like this

“a one room school house in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough no teacher had been able to handle them.

“Then one day an inexperienced young teacher applied. He was told that every teacher had received an awful beating, but the teacher accepted the risk. The first day of school the teacher asked the boys to establish their own rules and the penalty for breaking the rules. The class came up with 10 rules, which were written on the blackboard. Then the teacher asked, ‘What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?’

“ ‘Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,’ came the response.

“A day or so later, … the lunch of a big student, named Tom, was stolen. ‘The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old.’

“As Little Jim came up to take his licking, he pleaded to keep his coat on. ‘Take your coat off,’ the teacher said. ‘You helped make the rules!’

“The boy took off the coat. He had no shirt and revealed a bony little crippled body. As the teacher hesitated with the rod, Big Tom jumped to his feet and volunteered to take the boy’s licking.

“ ‘Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?’ the teacher asked.

“After five strokes across Tom’s back, the rod broke. The class was sobbing. ‘Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. “Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!” ’[6. Pres. Hinckley: Christmas a Result of Redeeming Christ,” Church News, 10 Dec. 1994, 4]

In this parable, I would hazard a guess that in the great counsel in heaven we all agreed on the rules. God is the teacher, we are Little Jim and Jesus is Tom. Jesus stepped in for us because as a mortal we can not bear the punishment alone.

I once asked a Stake President to help me understand the Atonement, and he went about it in an even simpler method taking his garbage can and putting it to the edge of his desk. Then telling me the items on his desk were our sins, wiped them into the garbage can. Back then I didn’t quite grasp that concept, I over thought it, but it makes sense. I can not forgive myself and be worthy to enter the Kingdom of Heaven – Jesus has got to help. He can take those red stains of sin and turn them white [7. Isaiah 1:18].

I understand now more so about why they counsel that it is hard to understand or to put into words the concept of the Atonement. There is a lot of pieces that are not known to me, suffice it to say that you keep digging deeper to learn as much as you can about it.

James E. Faust understood what was meant in Mosiah 4:6–7 when he said “Our salvation depends on believing in and accepting the Atonement.”

I’ll end this by saying that, I am not a LDS scholar, nor do I consider myself all that smart with the LDS Gospel. I’m trying to learn as much as I can, and so there may be errors in my thoughts. I’m not trying to pass anything off as official, but making sense of what I don’t understand. If you feel there are errors here, please let me know.

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One Response so far.

  1. Jesus Christ, as the Only Begotten Son of God and the only sinless person to live on this earth, was the only one capable of making an atonement for mankind. By his selection and foreordination in the Grand Council before the world was formed, his divine Sonship, his sinless life, the shedding of his blood in the garden of Gethsemane, his death on the cross and subsequent bodily resurrection from the grave, he made a perfect atonement for all mankind. All are covered unconditionally as pertaining to the fall of Adam. Hence, all shall rise from the dead with immortal bodies, because of Jesus’ atonement. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15: 22), and all little children are innocent at birth. The atonement is conditional, however, so far as each person’s individual sins are concerned, and touches every one to the degree that he has faith in Jesus Christ, repents of his sins, and obeys the gospel. The services of the Day of Atonement foreshadowed the atoning work of Christ (Lev. 4; Lev. 23: 26–32; Heb. 9). The scriptures point out that no law, ordinance, or sacrifice would be satisfactory if it were not for the atonement of Jesus Christ (Heb. 10: 1–9; 2 Ne. 9: 5–24; Mosiah 13: 27–32).

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